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Study Abroad helps students see global village

October 4, 2010

Photo of puzzle-piece globeWhen NIU graduate student John Parr was studying global history in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2005, he learned volumes about the subject and a few things about his native country: the United States.

“I learned a lot about English history and British-American history,” the Cary resident said. “I also learned what it means to be an American. I saw how people in other countries feel about Americans and this county.

“I needed that transnational perspective. Every student should have it.”

Parr received it while taking part in programs offered by NIU Study Abroad Office. Because the world operates in a global market, college students should put miles on their passports and study in different countries, he said.

He and other NIU students, their faculty members and administrators sent out that same message Sept. 23 at the annual Study Abroad Fair. More than 700 undergraduate and graduate students heard stories and songs of praise about learning in different countries.

The Study Abroad-sponsored fair showcased the university’s programs to provide a global education to students studying an endless range of subjects. The experience is enriching, intriguing and becoming necessary to complete for jobs in the global labor market, Parr and others have said.

“These days, employers are looking for people with a broader view of the world,” said Brett Jacobson, a senior who is studying sociology.

Programs can span a few weeks or an entire semester. Jacobson, a Spring Grove resident, chose a program that lasted two months. He traveled to Dubai, Egypt, to study its residents and culture. Being exposed to a different culture, different language and even different time zone turned every casual greeting, classroom lesson or city stroll into a learning experience, he said. His understanding of that society was expanded by actually standing in it.

Jeanette Rossetti and Kathleen Musker, professors in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, are putting together a two-week trip to Ireland for nursing students in the summer of 2011. The trip is scheduled from June 20 to July 6.

“We picked Ireland because we speak the same language and it has socialized medicine so the students can learn a different perspective,”  Rossetti said. “We’ll be studying the mental health and community psychiatric health care services there. Nurses in Ireland have done research in the area of patient rights and the mentally ill, which is an area we are researching as well. It should be a rich learning experience for all.”

Exposure to the global village is the exact reason why American-born students should study in a foreign country, said Deborah Pierce, associate provost for the Division of International Programs

“Studying abroad strengthens and catapults students into new thoughts about the world and themselves,” Pierce said. “It gives them a global perspective on their studies and on the United States as well.”

Last year, 343 NIU students took that advice, packed their bags and books and set sail for distant lands. Twice as many foreign-born students traveled to NIU for their lessons.

Wherever the destination, she said, these times dictate that an international studies experience is expected of college graduates. Many who don’t have one will find themselves competing for jobs with graduates who do.

More information about the programs and trips that will be offered for 2011 is available online.

by Gerard Dziuba